(image by Tuomas Korpi)
In what will probably go down as one of the most-tweeted blog posts of 2013, Don Mattrick (Microsoft's executive in charge of the Xbox) spelled out a big reversal (Twitter calls it #Xbox180) with regard to its used game and digital rights management policies. Where before the plan had been to de-emphasise disks and turn sharing into kind of digital lending affair, now it's back to the more old school model.
This is of course in response to the company's disastrous E3 performance and the utter gazumping that Xbox One suffered at the hands of Sony. Yet the question is now is whether Microsoft has gone far enough. The XBX1 may be less unpopular, but that's not the same thing as popular. The Kinect requirement, for example, is not popular. Nor the fears over how much RAM the system's three operating systems will require. The installing-games requirement is not popular. The attitude to self-publishing and the de-emphasising of games over other media content are not popular. And the price is not popular.
Many would say that the difference is one of listening versus dictating, between fact and rationale. Microsoft regularly manages to rationalise itself into failure by becoming bewitched by grand narratives. To Mattrick's credit, his employer's usual course in these situations is to barrel on regardless, but reality has prevailed on this occasion. The marketing story wanted to go one way, the platform story another, and when that happens the marketing story always (eventually) wins.
Yet the damage is already done. After Sega misread the 3D generation and then scrambled to add power to Saturn, it looked like a follower rather than a leader. Many of its games were comparatively underwhelming as they had been built for different parameters, and the company never recovered. After Sony had its own PR nightmare 10 years later with the PlayStation 3 it took long years and deep pockets before the audience finally stopped calling it "SonyLOL" and bought in.
Once you upset the tribe, forgiveness is very hard to come by.